What agencies want from their freelancers

How to thrive as a freelancer – the view from inside the agency

Let’s face it, freelancing has its freedom perks; there’s scope to set your own timetable and even where you work. But life away from the reliability of a permanent role needs working at. Securing clients is more than likely your biggest challenge, and regular repeat work the treasure you’re seeking.

So, what do agencies look for in their freelance copywriters? How do they like to be approached? And which are the agencies worth working for? I’ve been quizzing some creative industry pros to find out how to start, build and retain quality freelancer/agency relations.

“The best part of working with freelancers is when they bring a fresh idea to the table or put a spin on something that then transforms it into something better.”

So says Simon from Studio La Plage (SLP).

Being a fresh voice to a project is one of the better parts of freelancing. And like many agencies, SLP typically looking for freelancers to help their in-house copywriting team meet unexpected demand, or to deliver a specific skillset to meet part of the brief. So, as a freelancer, it’s your job to show how compatible you are with the project you’re pursuing.

Here’s how best to do it…

Top 7 ways to speak ‘agency’

When asking agencies what they want from freelancers, patterns quickly emerge. What it creates for you is a wish list to work from when pitching for that brief that’s come in from out of the blue. Giving an agency what it’s looking for could see you on their books and hired again and again.

In no particular order (except for the first one!) here’s your 7 Top Agency Likes for freelance copywriters:

Creative ability

You can understand that this is a biggie. Be honest. Do you have the experience, vocabulary and understanding to write what’s needed.


No yoga moves needed for this one. Just the ability to meet the needs of the agency, their client and the project. You don’t always have to be right.


Find out about deadlines and be clear if you can or can’t meet them. They don’t need to know you’re pulling an all-nighter to get the work done, just don’t miss that deadline.


Regularly share updates on how the work is going and respond to client questions as quickly as you can. Ask for help if the brief isn’t clear and talk openly about your own experience.


Show every client your commitment and act as if they are your only one. The project is immensely important to them, so show it matters to you too.


Each agency has its own way of doing things. Be willing to listen and mould yourself to their ways of working. It’s not all about you.

Be a real team player

You’ll be working with a wide range of personalities on a project so it’s your job to fit in with them. Let any office politics wash over you and resist taking sides.

Show ‘em what you’re made of

It seems that an online portfolio, and nothing necessarily whizzier, is still a useful tool for showcasing and explaining past projects. Have a broad selection of work examples ready but only share them when you’re clear what the agency is looking for. It’s always about showing you’re the best possible fit for every individual brief that comes across your desk.

“The quality of work is obviously the most important thing to help freelancers build ongoing relationships with an agency, but the journey between brief and final delivery is just as important. If those two things are right, then the relationship should be golden.”Simon, SLP

Make sure your online portfolio tells the complete story of what you’re capable of. No need for it to be whizzy but do include links to any pieces of work that exist elsewhere too. They all add to your credibility.

And remember, agencies, like most of us, prefer something tried and tested.

They’re likely to take freelance recommendations from chums at other agencies and are influenced by references and reviews they find online as well. So, keep your network updated and up to date. You never know when someone may offer you up as a lead.

Make sure you’ve done your homework on any agency that’s been in contact before sending your reply. Show them that you know something of their past clients and complete projects. These are the cues that demonstrate you understand how the agency thinks and feels. They all have their own personality so do what you can to tailor-make your response. It’ll be impossible to be bang on-brand but the attempt will get noticed.

It’s not all about you

Keep in mind that the best relationships work both ways. So, while helping an agency get a better picture of who you are as a freelance copywriter, it’s time for some due diligence of your own. Is the agency going to be a fit for you?

Check them out online. What you want are indicators of their:

  • Expertise
  • Client mix
  • Previous projects
  • Ways of working

Here’s what attracts freelance copywriter Graham Parker to the agencies he works for:

1 The words on their website
“We all have buzzwords we respond to – a financial agency that talks about ROI and KPIs just doesn’t have the creativity he’s looking for as a brand storyteller. The reaction is immediate.”

2 Their client list
“It speaks volumes about an agency. A self-proclaimed ‘luxury agency’ that features local bakeries and high street FMCG brands shows a disconnect between who they are and who they want to be.”

3 Their size
“Some freelancers go after big prestigious agencies, others like small boutique set-ups. You can’t always tell the size of an organisation from its website or the scale of the work they take on. Best to keep your options open.”

Can you tell if they’re into you?

It seems so, yes. A good agency should understand your areas of expertise and look to exploit and stretch them. And if they’re interested in an ongoing relationship, help make you feel more part of the team and less like a guest.
Initial meetings can speak volumes too. Look out for how many people have joined the initial call and are they the right seniority to get decisions in the bag.

And then there’s the brief? Some agencies just don’t put enough time into thinking a brief through, coming up with something that’s woolly and confused. Others may send you every document they have ever received – and swamp you with details you don’t need. All this can be really telling about how they work and how you might get on together.

Like all relationships, the freelancer/agency connection needs working at and time to develop. Get them right and they can be golden; your experience and skills being just the injection the project needs.

Many thanks to Simon Adamson, Head of Production Studio La Plage; Mireia Ferrer, HR & Talent Acquisition Manager at Dragons Group; Sarah Watson, Project Director, Fabrik Brands and brand specialist Graham Parker for their insight.